Dr. Bret Butler

Wildland Fire Safety Award
The International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) inaugurated the IAWF Wildland Fire Safety Award at the Association’s first Wildland Fire Safety Summit held in Rossland, British Columbia, Canada in 1997. The award has been bestowed on 13 other individuals since that time, the last being in 2018. The IAWF Wildland Fire Safety Award is presented to a deserving individual within the international wildland fire community who has made a significant contribution to wildland firefighter safety, either directly on the fireline or indirectly through management, cultural changes or research.  Their contribution is frequently viewed as extending being beyond their normal everyday job expectations -- sometimes at the potential risk to their own career. Their example can often encourage others to act in a similar manner. Selection of the recipient is based on open nominations reviewed by a committee comprised of previous award recipients and occasionally a member of the IAWF Board of Directors. Nominations were again open this past year for the IAWF Wildland Fire Safety Award. The final selection is always a difficult one, as all the nominees are typically very well deserving of the award. The year’s recipient of the IAWF Wildland Fire Safety Award has been working in the field of wildland fire science for 30 years now since the completion of their PhD degree. During this entire time, this individual has been employed by a single government agency.  The primary emphasis of their research and technology transfer efforts has focused both directly and indirectly on improving wildland firefighter safety globally. Among some of the accomplishments of this year’s recipient of the IAWF Wildland Fire Safety Award over their career have been:
  • Preparation of a seminal case study of a major fatality wildfire.
  • Serving as a serious accident investigation team member.
  • The development of a model for simulating wind speed and direction in mountainous terrain for use in predicting fire behavior.
  • Involved in coordinating several IAWF Wildland Fire Safety Summits and international fire safety short courses.
  • Authorship of numerous peer-review journal articles and conference papers dealing with different aspects of wildland firefighter safety
However, perhaps their most notable accomplishment is undoubtedly their research into developing guidelines for specifying the desired characteristics of firefighter safety zones which has combined theory, fieldwork in the USA and Canada, and end-user opinion. It is our great pleasure to announce that the recipient of the 2021 IAWF Wildland Fire Safety Award is … (drum roll please) … Dr. Bret W. Butler, a Research Mechanical Engineer with the USDA Forest Service based at the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula, Montana, USA. Congratulations Dr. Butler!